Scottish sea lochs ‘important stores’ of carbon

Sea Loch

Scotland’s sea lochs play an important role in storing carbon which would otherwise contribute to climate change, scientists have suggested.

Using samples from Loch Etive, near Oban, researchers calculated that a square metre of sediment contains more carbon than peatlands.

Protecting carbon stores is important because when it is disturbed it can release greenhouse gases.

The study was carried out by researchers at St Andrews University.

While millions is spent on enhancing and restoring carbon-stores in peat moors, sea lochs are afforded relatively little protection from activities like dredging and the researchers said that needed to change.

Research fellow Craig Smeaton said: “Scottish sea lochs contain a large amount of carbon.

“It’s mainly been forgotten about over the last decade in comparison to the Scottish peatlands.

“About a third of the carbon held in the peatlands are held in the lochs but when you think about it as an area difference the lochs contain far more carbon per metre or kilometre squared. So they are storing more carbon over a smaller area.”

Sea Lochs

The Scottish government is currently finalising its Climate Change Plan which sets out how it intends to address global temperature rises over the next 15 years.

But a draft version, published in January 2017, contained no policies to protect sediment deposits in sea lochs.

The sediment is carried from the landscape through rivers and burns into lochs. Until recently it had been assumed the carbon then disappeared into the sea.

But deep troughs in the lochs provide huge areas for the sediment to settle and be stored.

Mr Smeaton added: “The coastal region, and fjords and sea lochs in particular, are giving this carbon a second chance to be captured. So it’s not all lost.

“There is a second reservoir of carbon that we’ve totally forgotten about. But it is there and it is large and important.”

About 640 million tonnes of carbon is now estimated to exist in the top 111 Scottish sea lochs. Scottish peats have been estimated to hold 1,600 million tonnes.

The biggest threat to sea lochs is thought to be from dredging, where fishing gear is dragged along the sea bed to scoop-up scallops.

Read the full article at BBC News.

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